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Wooden Table 


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Wooden Table 

Written By: Nick Raymond 



Chisel (1) 

Chop-saw (1) 

Circular saw (1) 

Clamps (4) 

able to open 3' wide 

Combination square (1) 
Drill press (1) 

Electric Sander (1) 

with various grit sandpapers from 60- 

Electric drill (1) 

Electric planer (1) 

to reduce the thickness of 

wards, or if you plan on using recycled 
or reclaimed lumber - 

Hand planer (1) 

Pull Saw (1) 

Ratchet and socket (1) 

socket size depends on type of nuts 

Router (1) 

Router Bit (1) 
5/32" width 

Router Bit (1) 
Rubber Mallet (1) 

Wood (2) 

Wood (4) 

Wood (2) 

Wood Biscuits (25) 
to align boards together 

Kerf Mount Corner Brackets (4) 
purchase online at 

Hanging bolt and nut (4) 

available at local hardware store or 
www, rockier, com 

Wood screws (1) 

Wood putty (1) 

wood stain (1) 

(optional) to change the color of the 

Wood Sealer (1) 

(optional) to protect wood from water 

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Wooden Table 

Table saw (1) 

Tape Measurer (1) 

Vise Grips (1) 

to install hanger bolts 

Wood glue (1) 

TiteBond II or Elmer's Glue 


Before moving off to college I wanted to build something that would be suitable as a kitchen 
table and double as my desk for studying. It needed to be sturdy and robust enough to last 
through college and for the years to come, yet I did not want to build a piece of furniture that 
would require a moving truck and four guys to move it up a flight of stairs. 

Using mortise and tenon joints in combination with inexpensive kerf-mounted corner 
brackets, I was able to build an attractive and rigid table that can be disassembled and 
reassembled all by myself. 

The type of wood you use may vary depending on your location, price range, and personal 
preference. Soft woods like pine and cedar are more common and usually available at most 
lumberyards as dimensional lumber. Hardwoods, such as maple, cherry, and oak, tend to 
cost more and may be more difficult to work with, especially when using hand tools. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 1 — Design plans 

• The length and width of kitchen 
tables vary, but a comfortable table 
height is right around 30" tall. 

• This table uses mortise and tenon 
joints for the legs and apron 
structure, with breadboard joints at 
the ends of the table top. These 
breadboard joints reduce any 
movement that may occur from the 
expansion and contraction of the 
wood over time and keep the table 

• For more information about mortise 
and tenon joints, check out master 
woodworker Len Cullun and his 
Workhorses article. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 2 — Tabletop 

• I purchased cedar wood from the local lumberyard in the form of dimensional lumber. It is 
relatively inexpensive and easy to find; however, other woods will work just as well. 

• NOTE: The actual dimensions of a 2x4 are IV2" x 31/2 " as a result of the final 
planing process to produce "finished" wood at the lumber mill. Keep this in mind if 

you choose to design your own table or when you purchase dimensional lumber for any of 
your other wood projects. 

• Cut the 2"x6"x8' boards in half to produce boards that are 48" in length. These will become 
the table top. 

• Use a table saw to cut 1/4" down each side of the boards to remove the rounded edges. 
This create a sharp straight face and will ensure a tight fit between the boards. The boards 
should now be 5" wide and 48" long. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 3 

• Place the boards on the ground and 
rearrange them until you are 
satisfied with their appearance and 

• Use a pencil and mark the boards 

1 ,2,3... as a reference for when you 
reassemble and glue the wood 

• This is your opportunity to hide any 
knots or defects in the wood. Only 
one side of the tabletop will show, 
so you can hide imperfections in 
the wood if you plan accordingly. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 4 

• Use a router with a biscuit joiner bit to cut a 5/32"-wide groove along each side of the 

• For the two outermost boards, cut a groove on only one side. My tabletop was made from 
six boards, so board #1 and board #6 required only one side to be grooved. 

• When cutting the grooves with the router, stop 2" from each end. This will leave plenty of 
room for making the tongue of the breadboard joint and will ensure that the joint has plenty 
of strength. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 5 — Assemble the tabletop 

• Insert #10 wood biscuits (small oval-shaped discs of wood) into the grooves every 8" 
inches. Use plenty of wood glue and do not worry about excess glue dripping or running 
down the sides. 

• Spread the glue evenly over both surfaces of the joint and all over the biscuits. 

• The primary function of the biscuit is to align your boards to reduce the need for sanding 
later on. If used correctly (lots of glue!) they will adhere to both sides of the grooves and 
help to strengthen the joint. 

• Biscuits are primarily made of compressed beech wood. When coated in 
waterbased glue they will swell up and help lock the joint tight. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 6 

• Use four clamps to hold the boards together as they dry. Alternate the orientation of the 
clamps so that the first and third clamps are on top and the second and fourth are on the 
bottom. This ensures an even distribution of clamping force and prevents the wood from 
bowing under the force of the clamps. 

• Place scraps of wood between the the clamps and the edges of the table. This will prevent 
any markings or damage to the table from the clamps. 

• Read the directions on the wood glue and allow the glue to dry. I waited 48 hours before 
removing the clamps, just to be safe. 

• When tightening the clamps, glue will come out through the joints. Use a damp cloth to 
remove any excess glue. The trick is to keep the cloth damp at all times and use a water- 
based glue like TiteBond or Elmer's Wood Glue . This ensures an easy clean up. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 7 

• When the glue has dried, cut the table to the desired length by trimming both ends of the 
tabletop using a circular saw. Make these cuts as straight as possible; these edges will be 
used to form the ends of breadboard joint. Remember to include the length of the two 
breadboard tongues in your final measurement. This section of my tabletop was 43" long. 

• With the tabletop cut to size, it is now time to cut out the breadboard tongues. Measure 
one inch from the edges you just cut and draw a line across the top. Use a router and a 
1/2" router bit to cut away the material at a depth of 3/8". Flip the tabletop over and repeat 
the process on the other side to create the tongue of the breadboard joint. 

• Unlike a standard tongue-and-groove joint which is visible from the side profile, the tongue 
of the breadboard joint fits inside a long narrow pocket in the end piece and is not visible 
from the side. Remove a 2" section from each end of the breadboard tongue. Use a rasp 
and sandpaper to produce a flush surface. 

• Finally, create a slight bevel at the ends of the tongue using a chisel or rasp. This will 
make final assembly much easier. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 8 

• To make the end pieces of the table take a 2x6 and cut 2 pieces at a length of 30" each. 
These will be given the long narrow pocket that will fit around the tongue of the breadboard 
joint. This will reduce any warping or movement of the table top. 

• To make the long narrow pocket, mark out a gap 3/4" wide in the middle of the board's 
edge. Use a drill press with a 3/4" Forstner bit to remove the bulk of the material within the 
marked region to a depth of 1". 

Step 9 

• Use a sharp 3/4" beveled chisel and mallet to remove the remaining material. Keep the 
walls flat and make sharp 90° corners at both ends. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 10 

• Test the breadboard joint to see if it is a snug fit, but not too tight. This may require a tap 
with the mallet, but if it is too tight you will need to adjust the width of the tongue using 
sandpaper or a chisel. 

• Be careful not to split or crack the wood if using a mallet. 


• From the side view the tongue is not visible, producing a very attractive and strong joint. 

Step 11 

• Spread glue all over the tongue and 
inside the narrow pocket. Use 
clamps or straps to secure the end 
pieces onto the tabletop while the 
glue dries. 

• Clean up any excess glue before 
the glue dries, as seen in previous 

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Wooden Table 

Step 12 — Aside: Wood movement and breadboards 

• Wood is a dynamic material. It will expand and contract across the grain with changes in 
humidity and temperature. Different varieties of wood will expand and contract by different 
amounts. This movement is primarily across the width of the grain, not the length. 

• Because of this, a breadboard end requires special consideration. The breadboard end is 
attached to the table across the end of the grain. You need to make allowances in the 
breadboard for the table top to expand and contract. 

• For instance, the tongue should be shorter than the mortise in the breadboard end, so it 
has room to move without being crushed. 

• As well, you should only put glue on the middle one-third of the tongue, if that. Many 
woodworkers use strictly mechanical fasteners (i.e., dowels or screws in an oblong hole) 
to allow the table to move with the seasons. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 13 — Sand the tabletop 

• After the glue has dried sand the tabletop. Start with 60-grit sandpaper and pay close 
attention to the area where the boards meet. Use the lower grit sandpaper to remove any 
high spots or ridges. 

• Work your way up to 150-grit sandpaper. Be sure to move back and forth over the entire 
tabletop and avoid spending time in one small area while you work. 

• Work in a well-ventilated area and wear a dust mask. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 14 — Make the legs 

• Cut four legs each 30" long from the 4x4's 

• (Optional) Add a taper to the legs for an aesthetic touch. Use a hand plane to remove the 
material and shape the legs. 

• Most hand planes that you purchase from a store do not come pre-sharpened. Consult Len 
Cullen's article on Tuning Planes And Chisels to learn how to sharpen the blade of your 
hand plane before tackling the legs. A sharp hand plane makes quick work of these tapers, 
producing a smooth level surface. 

• These wooden legs incorporate a taper on three of the four sides. The pieces start out 
being 3 1 /2 M wide at the top, and reduce to 21/2" wide at the bottom. Be sure to draw a 
reference line on both sides of the wood if planing by hand to ensure a uniform removal of 

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Wooden Table 

Step 15 

• At the top of the legs use a combination square to draw your reference lines for the 
mortise pocket. Each leg will require two mortises to form the corners, so be careful to 
think about how you want the legs to be oriented if you added a taper in the previous step. 

• Use a 3/4" Forstner bit to remove the bulk of the material to a depth of V/2". Complete the 
mortise by using a beveled chisel to square up the corners and trim the walls flat. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 16 

• Shown here are the corner brackets that are used to secure the legs to the apron of the 
table. They also make it relatively easy to disassemble the table. 

• The corner brackets bolt onto a pair of hanger bolts that are screwed into the legs of the 
table and tie the frame of the table together. A hanger bolt has both wood threads and 
machine threads, one at either end. 

• These particular brackets are called "kerf-mounted corner brackets." They lock into a 
notch in the frame of the table. The hanger bolt goes through the center of the bracket, and 
as the nut is tightened on the machine threads the bracket bites into the notches and pulls 
the frame together. 

• Before installing the hanger bolts and corner brackets, it may be helpful to make two 
smaller tenon joints from scrap material to check the fit before drilling the pilot holes into 
the legs. The instructions that came with my brackets included dimensions for the 
installation; however, they should be considered more of a guideline. Test the fit using 
these mock-up tenon joints before drilling or cutting into your final pieces. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 17 

• To install the hanger bolts into the legs use a hand plane to shave off a flat surface beween 
the two mortises of the legs. The objective is to create a flat surface on the corner of the 

• Drill pilot holes for the wood threads of the hanger bolts, and use a pair of vise grips to 
screw the hanger bolt into the wood. 

Step 18 — Cut the tenon joints 

• Take the 2x4 and cut the lengths required for the apron. Do not forget to include the IV2" 
on each side for the tenons. 

• Mark out the reference lines and use a hand saw to cut out the tenons. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 19 

• Cut a groove near the ends of the tenon that is 1/8" wide and 1/4" deep. Use the thin 
planing blade of a table saw and run the piece over the blade, being very careful. 

• This is the contact point for the corner bracket that will tie the legs together with the apron. 
Step 20 — Assemble the table frame 

• Test the fit of the mortise and tenon joints. There should be minimal play. If the tenon does 
not fit in the mortise, do not use a hammer to force the pieces together. You could 
accidentally crack the wood and ruin the joint. Take your time and use a rasp or a sharp 
chisel to adjust the fit as needed. 

• Once all of the pieces fit together, install the corner brackets using washers and nuts. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 21 — Cut mounting brackets 

• To make the brackets that will 
secure the tabletop to the frame cut 
four 3"-wide blocks from the 
remaining 2x4 material. 

• Cut these blocks in half along the 
diagonal to create eight triangular 

• Drill two pilot holes in each triangle 
approximately 1 inch from the 
edges. To do this, place the block 
on a flat surface and drill straight 
down (not perpendicular to the face 
of the triangle). 

Step 22 — Mount the tabletop to the frame 

• Flip the tabletop upside-down and place the frame on top with the legs facing up. 

• Position the triangular brackets 6" from the corners of the table and drill pilot holes into the 
bottom of the table. Do not drill through the tabletop or apron. 

• Use wood screws to secure the brackets in place. 

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Wooden Table 

Step 23 

• Flip the table over, grab a few chairs and test out your new table! 

• For the final step seal the wood. Depending on the type of product you use this can change 
the color and appearance of the wood, but more importantly it will protect the wood and 
prolong the life of your table. 

Enjoy your new table. Next you can build a set of benches with any remaining wood that you 
have left over and learn how to make chairs to match. If you ever have to move, simply unscrew 
the tabletop from the frame and unbolt the eight nuts from the hanger bolts. The frame then all 
comes apart and you can move to your new home without having to ask your friends to help (but 
you should call them anyway because they will want to have dinner with you at your cool table!). 

This document was last generated on 2013-02-03 07:53:32 PM. 

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